Film

CinemaDope: Follow the Leader

A unique experiment in horror


Thursday, October 20, 2011
IFC Midnight Release Photo
Ashlynn Yennie in The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence

If you haven't heard of The Human Centipede, you probably don't want to. The sort of cultish horror film that somehow always seems to have an enthusiastic fan base, the 2009 film—in which a demented doctor abducts tourists and assembles them end to end via the gastric system—was a study in the ability of an audience to tolerate its own disgust. For those who could choke back the bile, it proved a rather unique entrant in the ever-escalating horror movie stakes. And now, there is another.

The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) comes to Pleasant Street Theater this week as part of the ongoing series of Friday night midnight movies. Director Tom Six returned to helm this second installment, which was deemed disturbing enough to be banned in the United Kingdom (a recut version has since been allowed to screen). Also on board is Ashlynn Yennie, an actress from the first film who runs into a bit of trouble this time around as well. Bum luck, you might say.

Not returning, unfortunately, is Dieter Laser, who, as the insane Dr. Heiter, made such an impression. It takes a special kind of actor to play such an over the top role without turning the whole thing into a farce, but Laser somehow made it work. In his place this time around is Laurence R. Harvey as Martin, a fleshy parking garage security guard obsessed with the first film—in the sequel, the first film really was a film. But Martin is no Heiter; heck, he's not even a surgeon. His attempts at homage involve staple guns and woodworking tools instead of scalpels and sutures.

The result is messy, stomach-churning cinema that will make all but the most dedicated shock junkies turn away. On the other hand, if you happen to be one of those dedicated genre followers, be glad you live in a town where a local theater has the guts to play a film like this. There aren't many left.

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For a gentler but still compelling story, check out some of the special screenings playing at Amherst Cinema this week, starting on Oct. 22 and 23 with My Reincarnation. An unusual study of father-son dynamics, Jennifer Fox's documentary was filmed over a 20-year stretch as she followed the lives of a Buddhist master and his Western-born son. Chegyal Namkhai Norbu is the master and father whose son Yeshi—recognized at birth as the reincarnation of a past spiritual leader—decides, as so many sons do, that he must follow his own path. He embraces the modern Western world even as his father hopes that he will return to carry on the family's spiritual mission. Both Jennifer Fox and Khyentse Yeshi Namkhai will be on hand to discuss the film.

Also at Amherst this week is Women-Spain-Film, presented in collaboration with the first Spanish Women and Film Conference at UMass-Amherst. Two films screen on Wednesday, Oct. 26: Miguel y William is a lighthearted invention that imagines Cervantes and Shakespeare as rivals for the heart of Spanish beauty Leonor (Elena Anaya of the recent Point Blank). As the pair dodge and parry their way around Spain, Leonor schemes to get the two working together.

Following that is Elisa K, a short but dark look at the after-effects of a childhood trauma. After introducing us to 10-year old Elisa, the film chronicles the seemingly normal weekends spent with her father. But then a sharp turn: we're told that this was the weekend that Elisa was raped. When the film shoots into the present, an adult Elisa is just regaining her memory of the awful event.

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Finally this week, two quick notes on yet more special screenings. Friday and Saturday see Chaplin's personal favorite of his films, The Gold Rush, come to Pothole Pictures in Shelburne Falls. The Little Tramp stars amid prospectors and dance-hall girls. And back at Pleasant Street, the documentary My Name Is Albert Ayler takes a look at the short life of one of contemporary jazz's most innovative instrumentalists. Not as technically virtuosic as some of his bop-bred contemporaries, Ayler made music that—with its direct, heart-wrenching tone—spoke a language all its own.

Jack Brown can be reached at cinemadope@gmail.com.

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